At first, I was shocked at how very saturated I’d been all these years without even knowing it. Aside from the music itself, there was also the need to know everything there was to know about the band’s history, individual personalities, the dramas with wives and ex-wives, the children, the brothers, the sisters, the parents, the aunts. I used to observe every Feb. 25 (George’s birthday), June 18 (Paul), and July 7 (Ringo) and Oct. 9 (John). I’d bought and immediately read, often several times, every book about them that I could find. The internet had only made it worse. I’d been saturated.
The first Beatle-free days were tough. Soon a week went by. A month. And something happened. It was as though I’d woken up from a deep sleep and was now available anew to the musical world. Amazing grace.
Still, there were moments of overwhelming nostalgia.
“Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you” was the melody that hit me right in the heart about six weeks into my No Beatles diet. Ditto “Can’t Buy Me Love,” a song for running and jumping and falling down like the Fabs did in “A Hard Day’s Night,” even if you’re a grown man waiting in line at a post office. But I held fast.
Soon enough, trouble came knocking in the form of “Get Back,” the three-part, nearly eight-hour documentary detailing the making of what would become the 1970 “Let It Be” album. When the film was first released in November, I kept getting texts, emails and phone calls from other obsessives who for some reason thought I was going to pay to watch what I hear is an awfully long show about songs that I know backward and forward but that I’ve never been on fire about. For me, early Beatles equals best Beatles. My Beatles all dress alike, have the same haircuts, tour the world and go “Woo!” My Beatles do not dig ponies. My Beatles don’t even have enough money to give George his own microphone.
It mattered not that I said, to everyone, loud and clear, “I don’t care.” People ran around that like a 15-year-old fan running around a police barricade at Shea Stadium in 1965. Billy Preston’s keyboard mastery, they said, must be witnessed, as must the construction of the song “Get Back” or even the wonderful restoration for its own sake — the color, the sound. I am going to be an old man soon, I told them, and I do not have eight hours to devote to “Get Back.” I’ve bought every Beatles album on LP, 8-track, cassette, CD. It’s enough.
None of these people knew, of course, that I’d quit. Even now, I find the repeated demands that I watch and discuss “Get Back” dangerously familiar:
“Have a drink!”
“Have a smoke!”
“Have a cupcake!”
“Have a Beatle!”
But why go back? Do the Beatles care if I live or die, if I am happy or sad?
The best rationale, in the end, came from a member of the band itself. George says, in an interview on the TV show “West 57th Street” in December 1987: “It’s Beatles this, Beatles that, Beatle, Beatle, Beatle, Beatle. In the end it’s like ‘Oh, sod off with the Beatles,’ you know?”